Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lickety Split

Lickety Split
by Thomas Scopel
First seen in Suspense Magazine (Dec.'10)

Leo Geovoine spoke, “Let’s hurry up! Be quick…lickety split. Know what I mean?” His deep tone was stern, serious and distinct, but somewhat playful. “That thing’s loud as hell, but, I guess nobody’s gonna hear us way out here especially at this hour,” he looked at his wristwatch. It was just after three a.m. “I just don’t feel comfortable with this one so let’s just hurry it up.”
He took his wrinkled, perfectly manicured sixty one-year-old index finger and quickly pointed toward the old, worn, black case occupying part of the concrete floor’s corner.
“I’ve gotta admit, Guido, always did agree that it’s the quickest way no doubt about it. Faster than the typical knife cutting ways, but being old school and I can still honestly say that I prefer those instead - it seemed classier. The meticulous carving was eccentric and considerably quieter, but no less of an art back then, know what I mean? Art that sent a clear respectable message. Not just some butcher’s note like this new fangled way of yours.
“Maybe I’m just longing for the older days. Things were slower, it was more methodic, but with one thing that always stood above the rest - respect. There’s not too much of that anymore nowadays, always in a goddamn hurry. Everybody wants the respect, but they’re not willing to take the time to earn it. They want it all right now and they want it handed to them. It’s the goddamn rat race, I tell ya. It’s all about the money and the speed they can get it these days; been getting faster and faster too. Hell, even I’m speeding up.
“Family is the most important thing. Always has been and always will. Maybe I’m just getting old. Forget-about-it. I guess we have to roll with the times. Let’s just hurry up, use it and lose it, got it? Be as fast as possible.”
He took a deep breath and continued his ramblings. “And like I said, it may be quicker but, that thing’s so loud it probably wakes the goddamn dead. It even hurts my ears. But, I gotta give you credit, one thing’s for sure, once we get started, hell, before we know it, we’ll be bagging up the bitsy piece parts.” He gave a heartless, somewhat reserved chuckle and slowly shook his head, “Again!”
Being a devoted catholic and highly religious, deep down Leo knew what they did was technically and most likely wrong. On the other hand, it was an often used, needed service, especially with the seedier side. But, it provided a very nice income for his family and therefore, he truly hoped the good Lord would realize and understand what he did was a necessity. As a matter of fact, he sort of looked at it as somewhat doing the Lord’s work and eliminating an evil that threatened a family. Regardless, it still would nag him being the executioner. He consoled himself each Sunday at confession the way most Catholics did, never once confessing to his capitol crimes. In his eyes, that would at least absolve him from the sin and thus, give him a fresh start each and every week.
Reaching inside his overcoat, he pulled out a cigarette and placed it between his lips. Fishing back into the same pocket, he took out a gold, electric-spark, butane lighter. Flipping it open, he pushed the side button designed to look like the ace of spades. There was a small pop sound and a bright blue flame voraciously appeared from the top of it. He lit the cigarette, let go of the button, closed the top and placed it back inside the pocket.
“Well,” he took a deep drag from his cigarette and left it dangling from his lips, “we better get started.”
Pulling out a tightly rolled and folded square of sheet plastic from his black overcoat’s large, side pocket, he shook it. Shaking it once again—this time more vigorously - the large, murky, clear-plastic sheet began unfolding and flew toward his partner, Guido Scopelini, landing at his feet. Guido bent down and retrieved it. Carefully grasping each corner and giving a gentle tug, the sheet partially opened. They both shook it in unison, fully opening it and removing the wrinkles.
“Let’s work off this,” Leo nodded toward the thick, wide, shiny, rubber conveyor belt, four feet off the floor and directly beside them. He tossed his half of the sheet over and across it. Guido followed suit.
“At least we don’t have to work off the floor tonight or out of a car’s trunk. That’s a nice welcomed change, having all this room to work with,” Guido casually mentioned while evenly adjusting the sheet, allowing the excess to dangle off the sides just barely touching the floor below.
Leo bent down, grasped the dead, limp body by the shoulders and waited for Guido to take hold of the other end. When Guido did, they lifted. Leo’s hand slipped out from under it and the body fell, head first, landing back onto the concrete with a dull, cracking, sickening thud. Guido didn’t say a word and waited as Leo took a fresh hold and lifted again. Struggling a bit, the older men managed to toss the body directly on top of the newly spread out plastic sheet.
Leo, cigarette still dangling from his lips, gave a small sigh, took a drag from it and retrieved a pure white handkerchief from his rear pants pocket. He brushed it quickly across his forehead, taking what little sweat that had slowly begun to bead with it and put it back. Guido offered an ever so faint understanding smile, turned and walked over to corner where he left the case. Leo, with cigarette smoke gently rising and following his movements, took hold of the body’s gently bent arm and set about working to straighten out the not so fully rigamortis-set limb.
Guido flipped the three latches on the top of the heavy, leather case and threw open the lid. Reaching inside, he took out a menacing-looking, red-stained, not so freshly used chainsaw. Dried particles remained attached to the chain’s blade edges with some resembling that of an old fishing worm dried hard on a hook. He carried it back. Leo already finished the stretching of both upper limbs and covered them with the side dangling sheeting, obviously hoping to catch most of the inevitable flinging blood and flesh.
Leo removed his overcoat, tossed it to the side and rolled his shirtsleeves up as high as they would go.
Watching Guido remove the chainsaw’s fuel cap, he directed, “I’ll hold ‘em, you cut ‘em.”
His voice echoed and bounced off the four-foot, cement-block wall running adjacent to the belt, reflecting back toward them and continuing beyond and throughout the large open factory area. Guido peered into the saw’s gas tank, leaning it to direct the overheard lighting into it and inspected the amount. It was over half-full and he replaced the cap. He then walked around the nearby end of the conveyer belt and followed it up the opposite side, taking a place directly over the body and across from his partner.
“All ready?” he asked in a not so serious, almost happy-like voice that gave Leo the impression his partner and trusted friend half-heartedly enjoyed this sometimes grotesque work.
Thirty-six years of being together and offering their services allowed them both the opportunity to earn the reputation and ability to grow into the mob’s best and most dependable, yet somewhat notorious, specialists. It was a status that would probably easily compare to that of an underworld rock star. It afforded them wealth, comfort and prestige that both relished. But, it wasn’t always like this; it was something they built over time.
In the beginning, it was obvious to both that they were a natural team that just clicked. Leo, the conserved, more practical one typically let Guido - usually gladly and proudly - take on the master craftsman role. Regardless the roles, both would accept the credit. Way back when, after accepting their very first contract - a job that only required an off shore bank account and came complete with anonymity - Leo felt uneasy and made it clear to his partner he didn’t feel right about it or even fully trust the situation. It was the complete anonymity aspect that bothered him the most. And, being a people person, found it to be not personable at all, feeling that it would open them up to either a potential criminal sting operation or set them as targets of their own profession. He wanted to know whom he was working for and why. He wanted assurances that the target truly had it coming, as well as a reassurance that the employer would not retaliate. And, if they did, by them initially meeting with the employer, Leo would know exactly who to go after, providing he survived.
Guido fully understood and agreed with Leo’s philosophy. Even if he didn’t feel quite as strongly about it as Leo did. It was a safety feature. Knowing why allowed them to decide whether they would accept or not. It made them feel at ease as well as somewhat protected and even offered them to be privy to at least one of their potential client’s deepest and darkest secrets, thus, somewhat leveling the playing field by providing a common reason as to why both employer and employee would want to be equally silent on the matters. Basically, according to Leo’s thinking, it allowed each party to have the dirt on one another. This would translate immediately into and provide mandatory and automatic trustworthiness. So, with their business concept well thought out, the two hurriedly and guardedly completed that first contract, vowing to firmly refuse accepting any more until the transactions offered their terms.
At first, their demands, requiring a personal meeting with the potential client that must include the disclosing and reasoning behind the ultimate butchering request was met with some resistance. But, that soon changed directly after accepting a particularly dangerous job that took out and eliminated a key witness, leaving a top, previously reluctant, client free and clear. This cemented their reputations which grew tenfold and before long, they were usually the team called first. Since implementing the change, both became content with the opportunity and ability to decide case acceptance, and the underworld quickly learned that if it wasn’t a good enough reason, don’t bother calling. From that day on, even though both were simply and blatantly considered to be murderers, Leo and Guido walked proudly with their heads held high, feeling an odd sense that what they did was actually a community service.
This progressed for years. But, it wasn’t until choosing a chainsaw as their primary carving instrument that they became notorious and feared. Previously, each explored a variety of methods, utilizing guns, knives and even dissolving acid. But to them, the ways were basically standard and boring used methods that were common and it lumped them in with the normal bunch of cleaners. It had no distinction. However, once they began using a chainsaw in their repertoire, their reputations cemented, elevating them to superstar status and added the persona of fright. Nowadays, just the mention of their names, in certain circles, commanded respect and invoked fear at the same time.
“Where you want to start,” Guido asked.
“Same as usual I suppose,” Leo replied, "let’s just be fast, gotta go, lickety split.”
Leo tossed his cigarette, took hold of the short brown hair on the body’s head and gave it a snug pull. The neck area opened up and Guido saw his target. He flipped a switch on the saw, grasped the handle and pulled. It choked once, emitted a dark puff of smoke and fired up loudly. He pulled the saw’s trigger a couple of times. The chains razor sharp teeth became a blur. Locking it into the run position, he placed the saw’s chain it on the victim’s Adam’s apple and began cutting through the soft flesh of the throat. Particles of flesh desperately attempted to cling to the saw blade as a fresh coating of red sprayed and began to make its way across, over and onto both the saw as well as Guido’s hand. Occasionally, pieces of flesh that the plastic sheet didn’t catch would fling wildly and land on the floor some distance away. The neck vertebrae were easy bones to cut through and the chainsaw needed little effort to complete the task. With a slight tug, the head separated from the body and dangled aimlessly by its hair from Leo’s hand. He let go and it dropped to the floor. He then lifted the stiffening arm by the wrist and Guido proceeded to cut through the shoulder. When it came loose, Leo tossed it alongside the head and the two continued on, eventually making their way down to the legs.
Knowing from experience that the femur, next to the skull, is the hardest bone in the body, Guido placed his left hand on the top portion of the saw’s handle to add extra down force for cutting through it. Leo stood closely across from him holding down the extremity at the pelvis and just above the knee. The leg, which was increasingly becoming fraught with rigamortis, fought valiantly to spring back up into its previous position and Leo had to push down hard in order to keep it straightened out. Guido quickly locked the whining blade in the wide-open position once again and began cutting into the thigh, flinging flesh chunks and bloody particles in the process.
“What the hell?” Leo yelled out over the saw’s constant scream, feeling the slight sting of the moist flesh directly hitting and occasionally sticking to his now red covered bare arms.
Guido pulled the saw out and away from the shredded, sliced leg’s groove and yelled back, “Lickety split, right?”
Leo started to retort, but Guido ignored it, placed the saw into the bloody trickling gash and beginning cutting again. The saw zipped through the flesh, hit on and began making its way into and through the femur bone itself, throwing bone particles in the process. Using his forcing hand, Guido pressed down on top of the saw a little harder. It quickly followed the previous groove and began continuously cutting through the bone. Suddenly, the saw cleared the bone and made short work of the flesh behind it.
Guido wasn’t prepared for the speed at which it occurred and was still forcing down the saw. He felt it bounce off the heavy underlying rubber conveyor belt and kick back hard. Without a moments notice, the saw sprang back up quickly, completely shearing off Guido’s pressure-assisted hand at the wrist. He watched with wide, fear-filled, surprised eyes, as his now detached, left hand landed on the lower torso of the dead, partially-mutilated body, flopping over once and coming to rest in the crotch area.
Blood sprayed heavily from the wound in every direction and began to pulse with each heartbeat. Faster than Leo could react, he watched, almost in slow motion, as the fully running and now basically uncontrolled chain blade came directly up, hit dead center and increasingly embedded itself deeper and deeper into the interior of his lower chin. He tried to pull away, but couldn’t. The constantly running blade’s direction held him firm and continuously yanked him back toward it, allowing it to continue cutting deeper and grinding up through his face. By the time the saw cleared its way out through the top of his skull, he was dead and just beginning to drop to the floor.
Guido watched in horror as his friend fell forward against the still running saw and forcing the blade to kick back off the top of his skull bones. Guido couldn’t control it as the saw twisted in his hand, spun completely around backwards, landed and quickly cut into and through his still good arm just below the elbow in one short swipe. Both the saw and arm fell to the floor. The still full-bore, running saw landed bar up, leaning on and against Guido’s freshly hacked off limb. Guido fell to his knees while holding stubs of arms up as blood spurted and ran, dripping off his elbow. Looking across and under the belt, he saw Leo lying limply on the other side. His now unrecognizably chewed and shredded face split evenly with each side lying wide open as if it was a particularly macabre Halloween mask. Blood flowed freely through the facial flesh trough continuing to flow out the chin section and pouring out onto and down the sides of his neck. A large, glistening, red puddle was continuously expanding on the floor below him.
Guido felt light headed and weak. He fully collapsed onto the cold concrete floor, not far from where his arm and the saw had fallen. Still hearing the constant and consistent whine of the chainsaw, he looked in its direction. The saw vibrated down off of the loose limb and the tip of it was now aimed directly at his face.
“Lickety split my ass,” he mumbled under his breath as he closed his eyes.
The constantly running chainsaw gradually and continuously vibrated across the concrete floor, breaking the early morning silence.
By the time it made its way to and began grinding directly into his face, Guido never felt it.

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